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Predation of Boa constrictor (Boidae) by Cerdocyon thous (Canidae) in Caatinga in Brazil


Predation of Boa constrictor (Boidae) by Cerdocyon thous (Canidae) in Caatinga in Brazil

Luan Arthur Queiros Lima, Talita Monielly Alves de Oliveira, Thiara Guimarães Maia, Ayko Shimabukuro, Itainara Taili, Raul dos Santos and Cecilia Calabuig*

Center for Biological and Health Sciences, Ecology and Wildlife Conservation Laboratory, Semi-arid Rural Federal University, Mossoró, Brazil.


There are few reports on the presence of snakes in the diet of the crab-eating-fox (Cerdocyon thous). Here we reported the predation of the crab-eating-fox over a boa (Boa constrictor) in the Caatinga biome, Brazil. Despite having a predominantly nocturnal habit, the crab-eating-fox was observed foraging during the day, a practice that is unusual and has little documentation about it. This report helps to understand the feeding behavior of the species, being the first to record the predation and activity of the crab-eating-fox over a boa under the daylight.

Article Information

Received 26 May 2021

Revised 09 June 2021

Accepted 15 June 2021

Available online 29 July 2021

(early access)

Published 25 April 2022

Authors’ Contribution

LAQL, TMAO and TG collected the data. AS, IT, RS and CC wrote the paper.

Key words

Boa, Crab eating fox, Feeding, Hunting, Semi-arid region


* Corresponding author:

0030-9923/2022/0004-1935 $ 9.00/0

Copyright 2022 by the authors. Licensee Zoological Society of Pakistan.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

Cerdocyon thous (Linnaeus, 1966), the crab-eating-fox, has a wide geographic distribution in South America (Tchaicka et al., 2007). It is tolerant to anthropic disturbances (Ferraz et al., 2010; Beisiegel et al., 2013), but intolerant to urbanization (Beisiegel et al., 2013). It is present in all of Brazil’s biomes and in an extensive variety of habitats (Cheida et al., 2006; Beisiegel et al., 2013). It has a nocturnal or twilight habit (Brady, 1979; Cheida et al., 2006; Toishy et al., 2013) and generally selects edges and environments that are more open than dense forests (Vieira and Port, 2007; Beisiegel et al., 2013). It is a generalist and opportunistic species in terms of food, ranging from small mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, molluscs, fruits, eggs of various species, insects and carrion (Motta-Junior et al., 1994; Cheida et al., 2006; Rocha et al., 2008; Beisiegel et al., 2013).

There are reports about the presence of snakes in the diet of C. thous, however, among these, few snakes are identified up to species level, such as Bothrops jararaca (Gatti et al., 2006; Rocha et al., 2008), Erythrolamprus poecilogyrus and Liophis poecilogyrus (Rocha et al., 2008), Erythrolamprus miliaris (Gonzalez et al., 2016) and Boa constrictor amarali (Silva et al., 2018). The other reports describe these snakes such as Squamata not identified (Facure et al., 2003), Ophidia (Gatti et al., 2006), Colubridae (Facure et al., 2003; Bueno and Motta-Junior, 2004; Gatti et al., 2006; Rocha et al., 2008), and Viperidae (Facure et al., 2003; Rocha et al., 2008).

Boa constrictor (Linnaeus, 1758) is a tropical snake and, in Brazil, is distributed from the humid tropical forest to the Caatinga (Amaral, 1977).It is considered a top predator, opportunistic and generalist (Monroy-Vilchis et al., 2011). It is semi-arboreal and feeds on small vertebrates such as lizards, birds and mammals (Vangilder and Vitt, 1983; Martins and Oliveira, 1998; Cabral et al., 2019).

Materials and methods

On January 19, 2021 at 8h: 17AM, researchers from the Laboratory of Ecology and Conservation of Wild Animals (ECOFAUNA) of the Federal Rural University of the Semi-arid (UFERSA), observed a specimen of a C. thous eating a B. constrictor. The registration took place in a fragment of the Caatinga located at the UFERSA’s Rafael Fernandes Experimental Farm (05°04´ S and 47°24´ W), rural area of the Municipality of Mossoró, state of Rio Grande do Norte.

Results and discussion

During the five-minute observation period, it was possible to notice that the C. thous initially eat the snake’s head. In a second moment, in the predation site, the B. constrictor carcass was found and it was noted that the specimen had no internal organs, being visible only the skin and bone structure.

Although C. thous is a predominantly nocturnal mammal (Cheida et al., 2006; Gatti et al., 2006), it was already active in the early hours of the day in a study by Dias and Bocchiglieri (2016) and Gonzalez et al. (2016), however, this pattern remains uncommon and poorly referenced in the literature. According to Silva et al. (2018), these species are influenced by seasonality in their diet, making the variety of items ingested flexible depending on the time of year, and there may also be adaptation of foraging times. Due to the seasonal influences that the Caatinga presents (Prado, 2003) and the flexibility in the use of habitat and diet (Beisiegel et al., 2013), C. thous consumes the resources that are available in the environment. C. thous is described as an opportunistic hunter (Brady, 1979) and with solitary foraging behavior, although it can also occur in pairs or in small groups (Cheida et al., 2006). Studies addressing only the composition of the diet have already demonstrated the opportunistic behavior of C. thous (Rocha et al., 2008), as well as the ingestion of certain items according to availability and time of year (Raíces and Bergallo, 2010; Dias and Bocchiglieri, 2016).

The fact that the B. constrictor predation started by the head, may suggest a characteristic of defensive behavior by C. thous. In a predation record of B. constrictor by two C. thous in Brazil’s Cerrado, it was observed that C. thous, sought to attack the snake’s head, while B. constrictor tried to protect it (Silva et al., 2018). In experiments carried out by França et al. (2017) with venomous snakes and mimetic species, it can also be observed that its predators initially attacked the head, probably to avoid possible injuries. B. constrictor can pose a threat to C. thous as this species can prey on medium-sized animals such as Puma yagouaroundi (Monroy-Vilchis et al., 2011).

There are still few records reporting the predation of snakes by C. thous and the existing data are sub-sampled, being restricted to the level of order, suborder or family (Gonzalez et al., 2016). By eating the snake’s head first, C. thous tries to accomplish a lethal attack, since in the study by Silva et al. (2018) the predated boa tried to shrink as a defense mechanism, in order to protect its head.

The present record helps to understand ecological, conservationist and evolutionary aspects about the diet of C. thous, presenting the second predation record of C. thous on B. constrictor, being the first record of C. thous haunting alone. Additionally, it contributes to the knowledge of the diet of C. thous in the Caatinga, biome that occurs exclusively in Brazil.

Statement of conflict of interest

The authors have declared no conflict of interest.


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